“A man on a horse is spiritually as well as physically bigger than a man on foot” – John Steinbeck
As an avid horse rider and equine vet any trip to the US would not be complete without visiting the horse capital of the world, the state of Kentucky. Louisville is home to the famous Kentucky Derby held at the Churchill Downs racetrack in May each year. It has been running since 1875 and these days expects a crowd of over 160,000 spectators (some there to see the race, others to party on the alcohol they have snuck in throughout the year and buried in the infield!). The grounds (and the guided tour) were fantastic and it felt really special to be standing where the hooves of some of the greatest thoroughbred racehorses in the world had thundered past. Secretariat, Citation and Man of War are among the greats. The museum attached to the grounds was interactive and informative, fun for all ages!
The famous boxer Muhammad Ali was a homegrown Louisville boy, and thus is home to the Muhammad Ali Museum. It was a great museum about an incredible man who was so much more than ‘just’ a boxer. His strength within and outside of the ring made him an inspirational and controversial character. He took a stand against racial injustice, expressed his values of religious freedom and triumph of principle over expedience.
As we drove closer to Lexington we ducked off the main highway and drove along highway 1681. This way we got to drive through the beautiful horse country with stunning barns, immaculate paddocks with timber fencing tracing over the hills. What a stunning area. It was dark when we arrived in Lexington and we headed to the Kentucky Horse Park for their Southern Lights Christmas light display. The annual event costs $15 per car and you drive through the grounds with the car radio tuned to the Christmas carol station and check out the bright and impressive light display. At the end there is a small Christmas market, a free petting zoo with some really cool animals (they even had some wallabies! Go Australia!) and $5 Santa photos. It was a very popular family event but also enjoyable for us in our 20’s. One also needs to check out Kentucky Horse Park during the day. Dedicated to equestrian activities of all kinds, it has a number of museums about the history of the horse, displays, monuments and statues and it also hosts many world class equestrian events throughout the year, including the famous Rolex Three-Day Event.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is one that you can follow in your own time in your own car. It will take you to several of the famous distilleries and highlights the art and science of crafting Bourbon. We only visited one distillery, the Town Branch Distillery in Lexington, that also brews their own beer. I am not a Bourbon drinker at all, but I really enjoyed the tour and surprisingly some of the samples too (make sure to save a sample token for the Irish coffee! I am not a coffee drinker but it was delish!).
If you like chocolate the Old Kentucky Chocolate shop should be a stop on the list. Unfortunately when we were there they were not running tours as they were too busy before Christmas, but they did have amazingly large chocolate truffle samples to try!
– Kentucky has the most amazing rest stops! The best ones we came across on our travels. If only they had showers too!
– Leaving Kentucky on our way to Pittsburgh, we stopped off in Cincinnati to visit the Creation Museum. It truly was an interesting museum, it did not at all align with my scientific non-religious mind, but I was impressed with the efforts put into creating the museum.